Existing home sales rose to an annual rate of 4.98 million in February in further evidence of the housing market's strengthening.
The rate is a three-year high, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.
The existing home sales report comes against a backdrop of rising prices and concerns over the supply of homes for sale.
In a separate report Thursday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency - the regulator for mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - said home prices rose 0.6% from December to January. For the 12 months ending in January, prices rose 6.5%.
More up-to-date data from real estate website Zillow shows home values rose for the 16th straight month in February, up 0.1% from January and up almost 6% year-over-year.
All 30 of the largest metro areas covered by Zillow registered both monthly and annual appreciation.
"The housing market recovery has continued to gain momentum over the past several months and looks firmly entrenched as we enter the 2013 spring home shopping season," says Zillow economist Stan Humphries.
Rising prices will "help cure" many of the ills facing the market, including big numbers of underwater homeowners. As prices rise, more homeowners will list homes for sale, which will ease supply constraints, Humphries says.
A shortage of homes for sale, especially in the lower price ranges, hurt California home sales in February, the California Association of Realtors says.
Sales of existing single-family homes there dipped 0.9% for the month from January and were down almost 6% from a year ago, CAR says.
Still, sales of single-family homes priced above $500,000 were up 31% year-over-year. Meanwhile, sales of homes below $300,000 were down 27% year-over-year, CAR says.
Fewer sales of distressed homes, including short sales and foreclosures, are expected as the foreclosure crisis recedes, says Patrick Newport, IHS Global Insight economist. Meanwhile, more regular sales will increase.
Newport expects existing home sales to come in this year at about 5 million. In a healthy market, sales would be close to 6 million, he says.
"The market is slowly picking up but it's not a great one," Newport says.
By Julie Schmit